COUNCILLORS WANT COMPANY SECRETS

Councillors, with bugger all to do since the Reverend Rees decided he didn’t want them scrutinising his work in detail any more, are finally ASKING QUESTIONS about the council’s two companies – Bristol Energy and Bristol Waste.

Councillors from all parties have been querying whether, in legal terms, Bristol Waste – a so-called ‘TECKAL COMPANY’ that can be selected to deliver council services without going through a procurement process – should be treated in the same way as a Council directorate for audit purposes. In other words, should there be FULL PUBLIC ACCESS to the company’s income and expenditure accounts like any other council department?

The Reverend and his panicky bosses have, so far, responded by trying to SHUT COUNCILLORS UP. They claim that a secret “independent review” of the companies has required Bristol Waste to establish its own audit committee while Bristol Energy had already established an audit committee. This is enough oversight argue the Reverend’s gophers.

Councillors, however, concerned at mounting LOSSES and excessive SECRECY at the companies, are reputed to be less than happy with the Reverend’s response and his insistence on constant secrecy for his failing companies. Especially as, at present, only ONE COUNCILLOR, the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board, is permitted to attend Shareholder Group meetings and only as an observer.

Shareholder Group meetings are where the finances and management of these companies are discussed. But, “due to the commercial sensitivity of the matters discussed”, the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board is then BANNED from SHARING any information with other councillors.

Many councillors, permanently out-of-the-loop and concerned at the LOSSES and the general CONDUCT of companies they’re responsible for, are now saying that it’s “too limiting to maintain a situation whereby only one non-executive Council member is given access to information.”

How much longer can the Reverend keep his “commercially confidential” company bandwagon on the road? It increasingly looks like pressure is mounting from both the public and councillors for exactly the kind of TRANSPARENCY the Reverend promised us during his election campaign.

Watch this space.

4 thoughts on “COUNCILLORS WANT COMPANY SECRETS

  1. paul

    I’ve been trying to find out which current Councillors were on the original Bristol Energy scrutiny panel, apparently it’s confidential, wonder why?

    Reply
  2. Cotham Cider

    I’m interested to know more about Shed Research Consulting (https://www.shedresearch.co.uk/project/bristol-energy/) who proudly claim that they “worked with the Council to provide a robust business plan” for BE and “demonstrated the size of the opportunity by creating a model for calculating Bristol Energy’s potential number of customers”. Who are they? How involved were they? They were even shortlisted for an award for it https://theicg.co.uk/story/2000242/independents-day-award-meet-the-finalists-shed-research-

    They also say they “needed to do all of this within a very tight deadline” So the business plan and market testing were a rush job?

    Reply
  3. Cotham Cider

    What I still dont get is how these assumptions about future profits were made.

    The BE cabinet report of 6 July 2015 had a long list of risks including the risk that the ‘business model is inaccurate’ leading to losses. The control for this risk was that they had input from Cornwall Energy and other consultants and it had all been checked by PwC. Non profitability after 5 years was what was referred to as the ‘disaster’ scenario.

    Correspondingly the risks if the company wasn’t set up…well there weren’t very many but they focused very much on the roles funded by ELENA and how this funding might dry up if the energy company wasn’t set up. So they had to commit to put 1.5 million into this to keep a few Euro funded staff? Sounds poor value.

    I still think this was all to do with the EIB funding. Once the funding had been accepted back in the Ormondroyd era on the basis an energy company was going to be one of the things set up, no one wanted to be the person who told the EIB it wasn’t going to happen. Optimism bias is a common phenomenon in these situations

    Reply
  4. Stanley Pontlarge

    Regulation 12 of The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 codify the rules on “Teckal” companies. In particular regulation 12(1)(a) contains the criteria that the council exercises over the company “a control which is similar to that which it exercises over its own departments.” That to me suggests the company should be subject to the same transparency requirements as the council as a whole.

    It is contradictory for the Council to use the “Teckal” exemption to directly award contracts while at the same time arguing commercial confidentiality or some other bullshit excuse to escape scrutiny. They can’t have it both ways.

    Reply

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